UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — commonly referred to as “drones”) are already used routinely for mapping and monitoring following rapid-onset emergencies like hurricanes and earthquakes. In DFID we are also exploring the use of UAVs for carrying light-weight, time-critical items, to help address humanitarian challenges.
For instance, cargo UAVs could prove to be valuable for:
- Delivering critical medical aid within the first 72 hours of a crisis, when damaged infrastructure or flooding sometimes makes roads impassable.
Transporting microbiological samples (e.g. in relation to tuberculosis) from field clinics to testing labs, since transporting samples by motorbike can be prohibitively slow.
Rapidly delivering health commodities for which there is unpredictable demand, such as anti-venom.
Supporting vaccination campaigns by delivering vaccines when and where needed, in areas without a reliable cold chain.
I recently had the opportunity to test some of these uses with our partners at the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and a non-profit called Help.NGO. The video below is from our test flights; it shows how we might use a drone to help support our responses to rapid-onset emergencies: